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Organic Grower Summit to provide firsthand knowledge

Event to be held Nov. 29-30 in Monterey, Calif.

Tim Hearden, Western Farm Press

October 12, 2023

3 Min Read
Organic strawberries
Organic strawberries are sold on California’s Central Coast.UCANR

Pest management, production challenges and technological advances will be key discussion topics at the sixth annual Organic Grower Summit Nov. 29-30 in Monterey, Calif.

The summit, sponsored by the Organic Produce Network and Western Growers, will also honor a long-time organic grower and industry leader, Rod Braga, president and CEO of the Soledad, Calif.-based Braga Fresh.

Braga will receive his Grower of the Year award as part of a keynote educational program that will cap off presentations at the Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel and Spa. The conference’s other keynote session includes a grower panel discussing the state of organic production, and a trade show will feature exhibits related to soil amendment, ag technology, food safety and equipment.

Walt Duflock, Western Growers’ senior vice president of innovation, told Farm Press he will discuss how technology is having a positive impact on organic growers.

“I think it’s worthwhile for people to attend for a couple of reasons,” Duflock said in an email. “For growers, it gives them a chance to get two days of content that is focused on organic growing practices and innovations.

“For startups, it gives them a chance to get in front of growers and have a conversation about how their solution can help improve the grower’s operation,” he said. “They are happy to talk to media and investors, but the main target audience is usually growers that grow organic and conventional product.”

Related:Organic Grower Summit speaker list set

Educational sessions

On one panel, titled Meet the Ag Sharks, three startups that got to pitch on stage at the Western Growers Annual Meeting will present at OGS as well, Duflock said.

Other educational sessions will include:

“Roadmap to an Organic Sustainable Pest Management Future, with three industry experts discussing the ins and outs of organic pest management.

“Understanding Evolving Production Challenges for Organic Growers,” which will showcase University of California research.

“Regenerative – What Does It Mean for Organic?”, which will examine the relationship between regenerative and organic agriculture.

“Unlocking the Value of AI on the Digital Farming Journey,” which will explore how artificial intelligence and machine learning are providing data-driven insights and forecasts for specialty crop growers.

The Grower of the Year Award will be presented to Braga by Cale Sledge, regional sales director of AGCO Corporation. A third-generation grower, Braga leads an organization that features multiple large-scale growing, processing and shipping locations in California.

Related:Session to prep organic growers for deadline

Organizers say Braga was selected based on his ongoing commitment to excellence in organic production, organic industry leadership, and innovation. He is a board member for Western Growers and a former board member for the Grower-Shipper Association of Central California.

“His decades-long work exemplifies what hard-working, passionate organic farming means to the success of his family farm and to California agriculture,” said Matt Seeley, CEO of Organic Produce Network. “Rod has worked tirelessly to encourage natural methods for pest control, water conservation, and always found ways to share information about those practices with other organic growers.”

California organics

California accounts for 36% of U.S. organic production, and organic sales in the state increased 16.4% to nearly $14 billion in 2021, according to the 2021-22 California Agricultural Organics Report. The growth occurred despite a 13.1% decline in organic harvested acreage, the state Department of Food and Agriculture notes.

Registration for OGS is open; cost is $495 for general attendees, $395 for Western Growers and California Certified Organic Farmers members, or $295 for Nov. 30 only. Visit www.organicgrowersummit.com.

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